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Genome comparisons reveal factors responsible for host specificity in the Fusarium fujikuroi species complex

Lieschen de Vos: Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), University of Pretoria

<div>The <em>Fusarium fujikuroi</em> species complex comprises numerous socioeconomically important fungi that display high levels of host-specificity. For example, <em>F. circinatum</em>, <em>F. pininemorale</em> and <em>F. fracticaudum</em> occur mainly on <em>Pinus</em> species, while their close relatives, <em>F. subglutinans</em> and <em>F. temperatum</em> infect <em>Zea</em> <em>mays</em>. We investigated the molecular basis for the ability of these fungi to associate with their respective hosts using a comparative genomics approach. For this purpose, genes common and unique to species from the two plant hosts were identified and then compared in terms of the pathways and processes in which they are likely involved. The results revealed substantial interspecies differences regarding the repertoires of genes implicated in carbohydrate and secondary metabolism, as well as those coding for putative effectors involved in host-pathogen interactions. However, we also detected a number of unique commonalities within in each of the two groups of fungi, particularly with regards to the array of putative cell wall degradation enzymes for which they encode. These findings may provide insights into the molecular mechanisms employed by <em>Fusarium</em> species in the <em>F. fujikoroi</em> species complex to infect, inhabit and cause disease on their respective plant hosts.</div>